Nikon D800 vs D700 FPS and Buffer Comparison

Many of our readers have been asking me to provide some information on how the new Nikon D800 (see our review) compares to the Nikon D700 (see our review) in terms of speed (“fps” or “frames per second”) and camera buffer. In the below video, I show the performance of both cameras side by side when shooting 14-bit Lossless Compressed RAW images with very fast SanDisk Extreme Pro 16GB compact flash memory:

As you can see, the Nikon D800 is slower than the Nikon D700 with its 4 fps speed versus 5 fps on the D700. It also lasts about half a second shorter than the D700 before its buffer gets full at around the 4 second mark. Nikon’s estimates for the D800 and D700 are 17 images for the D800 and 20 images for the D700 before memory buffer gets full and fps slows down. My tests are a little off, because the D800 should be a little faster according to Nikon – 17 / 4 fps is 4.25 and 20 / 5 fps is 4. Interestingly, the same thing happens when both cameras are set to 12-bit RAW – the D700 still lasts longer. Note how much longer it takes for the D800 to complete its write from the camera buffer into the memory card – now that’s one huge buffer! I bet it is at least 4 times larger than the one on the D700. Lastly, note that the D800 shutter sounds very different than the one on the D700.

Some people have been reporting memory compatibility issues with the D800. I have not seen any issues so far with any of the SanDisk & Lexar cards I have (I have been using SanDisk and Lexar cards for my cameras exclusively), so I believe memory card issues are happening with cheap third party memory cards only. Hopefully we will see a firmware update from Nikon soon – the D800 seems to have occasional slowdowns when writing to and reading from CF and SD memory cards, as reported in my Nikon D800 Review.

Nikon D800 for Sports and Wildlife Photography

While the Nikon D4 is the proper tool for sports and wildlife photography due to its faster speed and extreme ISO capabilities, many photographers are also looking at the Nikon D800 for action photography. First, the high-resolution sensor could give some “reach” opportunities with plenty of options to crop in-camera (DX mode) or in post (I highly recommend to do it in post instead of in-camera). Second, the AF system on the D800 is identical to the one on the D4 (Advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX). And lastly, noise characteristics of the D800 are very similar to the D4 when images are down-sampled to 16 MP (down-sampling can also result in increased sharpness). The biggest disadvantage is the slow 4 FPS speed of the D800.

Since many sports and wildlife photographers have been asking me about the D800 AF performance, I decided to share some information on it that I have collected so far. First of all, the f/8 focusing capability is not a myth – it definitely works. I tried the Nikon 200-400mm f/4 VR with the TC-20E III and focusing worked, even in low-light conditions (although not as accurate as in daylight conditions). Granted the image quality was pretty bad (the 200-400mm just doesn’t couple well with anything but the TC-14E II), AF worked just fine. This means that the Nikon 500mm f/4 and 600mm f/4 lenses will also autofocus with the TC-20E III teleconverter and you are not just limited to very bright shooting conditions. I will have to do some more in-depth digging with the TC-20E III and other long lenses, but so far I am impressed by the updated AF system.

What about the TC-17E II that I have been avoiding when shooting with f/4 lenses? Surprisingly, the D800 made my TC-17E II usable again. Take a look at this image, shot with the Nikon 300mm f/4 AF-S and TC-17E II:

American Kestrel

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Images from Another World

I just came back from a trip and wanted to share some of the images that were taken with the Nikon D800. Since I did not have a chance to shoot much with the D800 before the trip, my Nikon D800 Review had very few sample images, some of which were pretty bad for my taste. But as I have already pointed out, I had to publish the review before my trip, because our readers kept on sending me emails on a daily basis, asking when the review will be available. It is still a work in progress, so I will be updating it with more information this week. Check back the review occasionally and you will find more valuable information with plenty of details. Some readers requested me to provide more image samples and comparisons with the 5D Mark III and the D700, so I will do that later this week as well.

Back to the images from another world – the below images were taken with the D800 and Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G, Nikon 24mm f/1.4G and Nikon 85mm f/1.8G lenses, in a remote location of New Mexico, known as “Bisti Badlands”:

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Is Nikon D700 Obsolete?

36 megapixel Full Frame camera sounds great, doesn’t it? What you get in a D800 is, basically, exceptional high ISO performance, as demonstrated by Nasim in his review, and resolution that, heretics say, can rival some of Medium Format digital backs. One of the best cameras currently on offer, surely. One of the best for several years to come, it is almost a revolution, both in camera market as well as your pocket, as creatively described by Bob Vishneski. Extremely tempting, completely justified again and again in your mind. People would understand, wouldn’t they? Even your wife, with some persuasion, could see reason. And yet something is not quite right, not quite settled. Is it the old-ish D700 poking you at the shoulder? Never too far away, the brother. Always haunting, always showing off its huge sensor, its lower than ever price tag. The D800 shines above it day and night, yes, you see it in your dreams, you see it in the hands of other photographers – calling out to you, always bright, but the older brother is persistent. After all these years, after almost decades it seems now, D700 is still trying to drop a shadow on your face, still trying to be noticed and loved just as it was before the new kid came to town. A desperate pensioner.

But as it happens, pensioners are hardly desperate. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien wrote “The Lord of the Rings” when he was 62. What can we expect of D700, then?

Plenty, actually.

D700 at Weddings [Read more...]

D800 to Cause Nikon’s Stock Price to Drop?

Nikon executives have been pacing the floor today as they expect a huge drop – perhaps as much as 20-35% – in the company’s share price at the market’s opening bell. Over the weekend, Nikon frantically attempted to reassure some of its largest investors and retail partners there was no reason to panic. What happened? By all respects, Nikon has been on a roll with the D800 and D4 model introductions. Most experts have attributed Nikon with hitting it out of the park. The issue uncovered this weekend, however, is that the D800 is actually much better than originally thought or reported thus far. Surprise, surprise… the D800 is actually capable of an effective resolution of 108MP!

Conveniently left out of the original product marketing material and technical details, was the fact that the D800’s sensor has a substrate capable of capturing additional detail. When combined with sophisticated interpolation software (also not revealed to the public), it is able to triple the camera’s resolution. No doubt this newly discovered feature will lead to increased D800 sales. But the more troubling concern is the potential impact on the sales of Nikon lenses. When a photographer can take pictures with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, and is able to obtain high resolution crops similar to what a 105mm macro, 300mm, or 200-400mm lens can produce, why purchase additional lenses?

Turbo Mode

This capability, affectionately known within the Nikon Engineering ranks, as “turbo mode”, was apparently going to be introduced in approximately six to nine months. D800 owners would have been able to activate it after paying an additional $750. This would have marked the first time a camera manufacturer charged a fee for activating a feature after the camera had been shipped from the factory. Nikon customers would have been required to purchase a software key unique to their camera to enable this feature, so as to prevent people from sharing the code. But one of the Nikon engineers accidently stumbled upon a menu and button sequence that enabled this capability, thus bypassing the need for an activation code. In the software industry, such capabilities are often purposely inserted into the code. They are known as “Easter eggs”, since they require a bit of hunting to find. Most of the time, they are rather innocuous and simply result in a humorous message flashing onto the user’s screen. In computer games, Easter eggs may reveal some additional options not available in the menu. Nikon’s Easter egg, however, unlocks a significant capability – one that it was counting on for additional revenue. As with most modern day secrets, once the menu and button sequence was discovered, it went viral on the internet. Although we have yet to see the substrate and interpolation software engineering specifications, we can say that the initial test results are nothing short of jaw-dropping!

Flowers - Wide Angle Shot From D800

D800 Turbo Mode [Read more...]

Nikon D800 Review

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This is an in-depth review of the new Nikon D800 camera, one of the most anticipated DSLRs from Nikon that the photography community has been impatiently waiting for more than a year now. The camera was supposed to be released in the summer of 2011, but due to several natural disasters that heavily impacted Nikon’s capability to produce cameras both in Japan and in its Thailand factories, its launch was delayed until February of 2012. There has been a lot of hype about the D800 and while our team has been posting quite a few articles about this camera, there are still many questions pouring in on a daily basis from our readers about its features, capabilities, limitations and performance, especially when compared to the older cameras like Nikon D700, D3, D3s and the new Nikon D4. In this review, I will not only provide detailed information about the Nikon D800, but will also try to answer the many questions that we have gotten so far on the camera, along with comparisons to other DSLRs. Specifically, the comparison includes sensor ISO performance with the following DSLRs: Nikon D700/D3, D3s, Canon 5D Mark II, 5D Mark III and Fuji X-Pro 1 mirrorless camera.

Nikon D800

Was it worth the wait? There has been a lot of buzz about the D800 before and after the camera was announced. One of the main reasons is the popularity of the existing Nikon D700 camera and the sheer number of people, especially part-time and full-time pros, who were dying to upgrade their aging cameras. In addition, the production delay further fueled the heat and spiked up the interest from the photography community that was getting rather impatient, wondering what Nikon would bring to the table for the next several years in the full-frame arena.

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A Conversation with my Nikon D800

The other night I had a dream – I was first on B&H’s D800 shipping list. Like many journeys into the mind, however, it soon took an unexpected turn. The following is the conversation that transpired. Warning: Some may find this disturbing.

Conversation with D800

Bob: I am so glad to see you! Do you know how many others would sell their right eye to get their hands on you?
D800: It is indeed good to be the king!
Bob: I don’t even have to wait until I charge one of your batteries, as you use my existing EN-EL15s! Ok, let’s head out and see what you can do!
D800: Whoa, Bobby! Hold on here, champ. Aren’t you rushing things a bit?
Bob: “Bobby”?
D800: We are family now, right?
Bob: I suppose so.
D800: Let’s step back a bit. First off, you aren’t actually going to put one of those DX lenses on me, are you?
Bob: Well, that was the idea. After all, you do have a usable DX crop mode, don’t you? And the Sigma 17-50mm 2.8 O/S is an outstanding lens, highly regarded for its sharpness.
D800: Sure, but do you really want to attach that DX lens, put me into crop mode, and throw a good bit of my glorious pixels away right off the bat? What a waste!
Bob: Well, that does seem a bit harsh, I suppose.
D800: What about the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 VR or a member of the Nikon Trinity – the 14-24mm 2.8? You do want me to have the best, don’t you?
Bob: Absolutely! You deserve nothing less!
D800: Now you are talking! Ok, well, let’s navigate to B&H’s site, and get one of these puppies on order!

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Nikon D800 has the best sensor in the world

If you have pre-ordered the Nikon D800, you will have a smile on your face after you read this. Remember my first post on the Nikon D800, where I said that it will take the #1 spot at DXOMark? Well, guess what – I was right on that one. DXOMark has just released their latest data for the Nikon D800 and it took the #1 spot away from the expensive Phase One IQ180 medium format camera. With an overall score of 95, nothing comes even remotely close to its sensor performance:

DXOMark-Nikon D800

While most of us were expecting to see incredible dynamic range performance from the D800, many photographers and critics out there were complaining about small pixels on the sensor and their implication on low-light performance. When I saw the negativity about the pixel size, I published an article on the benefits of a high resolution sensor. For some, the concept of “down-sampling” was quite new, while others strongly disagreed with me and kept on repeating the same old tune on how smaller pixels negatively affect high ISO performance. Well, those who doubted me can now take a look at the data that DXOMark has published today – the Nikon D800 pretty much matches the Nikon D4 in terms of high ISO performance. Wait a second, how is that possible, you might ask? After-all, we are not only comparing two completely different cameras for different needs, but also two cameras at completely different price points – the D4 costs twice as much as the D800.

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Nikon D800 is not compatible with Nikkor PC-E lenses?

One of our readers, Alex Abadi, contacted me about Nikon D800 compatibility with the Nikon 24mm PC-E (a.k.a. PC-E Nikkor 24mm f/3.5D ED). Apparently, Nikon indicated on the official lens page that the lens is NOT compatible with the D800, saying “Can not be used with shifting or tilting”. Here is a screenshot of the comment:

Nikon D800 compatibility with Nikon 24mm PC-E

First of all, Nikon needs to do something about their incompetent staff. In this context, “can not” should be spelled as “cannot”. They did not even bother to write a complete sentence. Second, why does Nikon allow staff members to provide answers without checking facts? The very first image from the Nikon D800E Sample Images was shot with the Nikon 45mm f/2.8D PC-E lens. Considering how sharp the image is, I am more than confident that the photographer tilted the lens. Third, tilt and shift lenses work perfectly fine with the Nikon D700 – it would be silly for Nikon to cripple the D800, considering that it will be a hot camera for landscape and macro photographers that heavily rely on PC-E lenses.

So if you are worried about Nikon D800 PC-E compatibility, do not be – it will surely work perfectly fine with all PC-E lenses, just like the Nikon D700 did.

Nikon D800 – D700 Replacement … Or Not?

If you haven’t noticed, the internet photography forums are abuzz regarding the question of whether the Nikon D800 should be considered a “true” successor to the D700. Many of these are civil in nature, but there are plenty of examples where passions seem to have gotten the best of some people. While there has been an enormous amount of positive commentary regarding the D800’s features, functionality, and value by many, there are others vehemently denying that the D800 can be considered an upgrade to their beloved D700. To prove their point, they even cite some Nikon representatives that reportedly claim that the D800 is a different kind of camera for a different market and not meant to replace the D700. Nikon’s announcement to continue producing the D700, with a corresponding price reduction to $2,199, has added more fuel to the arguments of those who believe the D700’s successor has yet to arrive. So who is right?

Nikon D800 vs D700

Well … they both are. How can that be? Simple – the D700 user base is not a homogenous group, but consists of users with many varied different photography interests, priorities and budgets. What they all share in common is the need for an entry level, affordable full frame Nikon camera. As such, they are evaluating the D800’s rich feature set next to that of their D700 in light of what they value most. Depending on your priorities, you could view the D800 as the perfect replacement for your D700. Or you could view it as an interesting model, but certainly not the model you have been waiting for.

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